Tuesday, January 31, 2006

This just in...

... I ran a mile. I. RAN. A. WHOLE. FREAKING. MILE. PEOPLE!!!

Ohmygodohmygodohmygod. I still can't quite process it. I feel oddly normal now, but my whole world is turned upside down. Was it just two weeks ago I was despairing that I still couldn't make a half mile? Was it just a week ago I was hysterically happy that I ran .65 miles?

Once again, hats off to Commodore for the 'no limits' thing, because changing the way I look at my run workouts it what did the trick. I went from hoping to be able to do this sometime in the next few months (and it's been a serious goal of mine for a year now) to magically making it happen in LESS THAN TWO WEEKS! And in a not-so-bad time, considering I'm still hauling around a hundred or so extra pounds (12:28).

I could babble on about this for ages, but duty calls...

Yay for me.

(OK, NOW I'm actually going to work.)

Is there an exorcist in the house?

Get thee back Satan! You come to me in the guise of innocence, with the face of my sweet little niece... but I know the evil lurking behind the cute little uniform and the adorable red hair. You shall not tempt me again. Not this year... nope, seriously. Please go away. Pleeeeaase? Please? Aunt Michelle really doesn't want... well, maybe. Just this once. Then no more ok? Don't come back next year. I mean it this time. All right, I'll take one box of Samoas, and.... ooh! Peanut Butter patties, gotta have those, Uncle Scott loves those.... aaaaand 2 boxes of Thin Mints...

Monday, January 30, 2006

Race Report

It occured to me that there's something fundamentally wrong with signing up for the 2006 race when I had yet to get around to publishing my 2005 race report from the same event. It's especially ridiculous since it was actually my first tri and I was quite excited to write up the report, so it's not like I didn't have it sitting around on my hard drive.

So I glued my butt to the chair this weekend and pulled it all together: my very first triathlon race report ever. It's longer than it probably should be, but for my inaugural race I wrote about everything because it was such a new experience.

Reebok Sprint Triathlon - June 12, 2005

Sunday, January 29, 2006


Been meaning to do it for ages, this bullet point on my To Do list. Today I finally sat down for 10 minutes and did it - piece of cake! Don't know why I put it off for so long, there was no doubt I was going.

I officially have a hotel reservation in Madison so I can volunteer at IMWI.

Some people were concerned about the hotels being all booked up, but I wasn't really. It's a Big Ten town - that means they've got hotel facilities for tens of thousands of football fans (I speak as Big Ten alum) - so I figured the thousands of IMWI participants and volunteers would not strain their space too much. I was right - the hotels closest to the venue are booked, but there are still a good number of less expensive rooms to go around, and even more of the expensive ones.

If anyone is thinking about it, go here: Visit Madison. Follow the link at the bottom of the page for Ironman Wisconin lodging. They provide info on how far it is from the race and everything, and easy on-line reservations.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

What the... ?!

Today I found that one of my biggest pet peeves - obnoxious corporate sponsorship - has struck where my sporting heart lives: my very favorite triathlon.

This afternoon I went online to register for my race, and to my dismay found that the sponsorship changed. Not that the corporate sponsor shuffle is unheard of in sporting events - alas, it's common as dirt nowadays - but this one, at least to me, sticks out like a sore thumb.

Before Danskin moved their Chicagoland venue to Pleasant Prairie this race was one of that series. Since then it's been part of the Reebok series. In fact, became so well known as part of the Reebok series that every triathlete I've met in the area refers to this race as "doing Reebok".

So you can imagine my horror at finding it is now the "Subaru U.S. Women's Triathlon Series." I mean, it made sense when sponsorship shifted from one sporting goods company to another... but what do cars have to do with triathlon? (They're not even cars I'd drive!)

They also changed the format to include an option for a SuperSprint distance. I'm not sure how I feel about that... but I think I don't like it, particularly since it appears they adjusted the bike course a bit to do it. The city of Naperville holds its own race over the same course about 8 weeks later; I don't see why they can't offer the supersprint option at that one. This one's already crowded with 2500 Sprint distance racers, where the hell are they going to put the additional numbers who want to do the shorter race?

So, my initial euphoria at race registration has been dampened considerably and I'm already picturing stupid corporate logo race shirts with dumb cars on them I won't want to wear. Plus, this race is widely known around here for being incredibly well run... I tremble to think how this new (and likely inexperienced) sponsor will fuck it up.

Guess I'll just have to keep working my ass off so I can hopefully come up with the money to do more than one this year. I picked this race as my one because, until today, I knew I could count on it being a fantastic experience. As much as I like the atmosphere of the Danskin, logistically it sucks big time (no food, no sports drink, they ran out of freaking water...) so there's no way I was going to let that be my only race.

If I were ranting this aloud, right about now my husband would be cautiously suggesting I take a Midol... between my reaction to this and the fact that I ate the better portion of a pint of Ben & Jerry's today, perhaps I should consider re-evaluating the situation in about a week...

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Core Dilemma

I've been wanting to incorporate core work for a while now. My swimming friends say it's critical, all the triathlete folks say it's critical. I get that it's important, just hadn't yet figured out how to add it to my schedule, especially now that it's gone from having loads of free time to missing workouts left and right to get client work done.

I've heard from various sources that Pilates is a good way to get in core work and I've been dying to try it. My excitement at learning my gym now offers a class was dashed when it turned out that it meets at the same time as my weight training class, which I'm lucky to get in half the time as it is.

With my days at the computer starting around 9am often stretching into 9... 10... 11 pm I quickly learned to take little breaks or my brain fries. My first experiment with this was taking 5 minutes every hour or so to do a restorative yoga pose. It did wonders the first time I tried it, and I think taking that extra time refreshed me to the point I was able to spend fewer total hours accomplishing the task.

I figured I can take this concept one step farther and include core work breaks during the day; problem is I don't actually know what to do. I know it's more complex than doing some crunches.

Here's what I've got: a balance ball, plenty of floor space, and some rather inadequate advice ("work on one-footed balance poses"). Can anyone out there give me a little more to go on?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Commodore is da man

I want to give a shout-out to Commodore for his fabulous No Limits challenge to us all. I decided it was just what I needed to jumpstart my glacial progress and got on board.

With that in mind, I went into today's cardio session with a completely different plan. That is, none at all. I usually start a run workout with a plan from a running book of how many intervals for how many minutes... very regimented. While this has been good for my progress overall, lately I finish my intervals feeling like I could have run just a little more. After reading Commodore's post I realized I've been placing artificial limits on my running.

Today I decided screw the intervals, let's just see how long I can keep it up. I have a tendency to let my mind defeat me when the minutes start adding up because contrary to the mounting evidence, deep down I guess I still believe I can't run, so I had to try something completely different. I started running at my easy warm-up speed (4.7 mph, or about a 12:45 pace). Then to trick myself, after every 1 minute I bumped up the speed .1 mph. Sounds dumb, but it worked like a charm. It was easy to run for each minute, and my brain forgot to add them all up.

The end results was this: I ran the longest I've ever run non-stop in my life - 7 whole minutes. Ended up being about .65 miles - also the farthest distance I've ever run.

Might not sound like much, but it was a major mental and physical breakthrough for me and I can't wait to try it again tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


In the middle of training for my first race I went through a bad phase. A "holy shit, what did I get myself into" phase. An "omg, I'm never going to be able to pull this off" phase. So did my RTP (Reluctant Training Parnter). It felt like our training stagnated just as it was getting off the ground. We couldn't really swim - could barely do 5 laps (about 150 yards) before we needed a breather. We couldn't run at all.

The days and weeks and months ticked by and our apprehension grew. But we'd paid our non-refundable race fee, so we kept showing up. Then something magical happened.

I don't mean gradually, although there was obviously gradual improvement. I mean it was instant magic. After 6 months of effort I was stuck at a limit of swimming 15 lap intervals (30 = half mile). Then out of the blue, after a 5K on the treadmill, I got in the pool and I started swimming and voila! I could swim half a mile without stopping. Magic.

It was then that I knew I would make it. It was then I knew I could, and would, finish that first race. And it was at that moment I started to dream of all the races to come. I don't think my RTP ever had that magical moment. She never felt ready, she never felt confident. Instead of embracing the race with my "come what may" attitude, she feared it. And, I'm sad to say, she didn't enjoy it and doesn't plan to race ever again. But that's not the point.

I recognized that moment for what it was and I treasured it: my life as a triathlete had begun. It was, and is, such a wondrous thing to happen for me, and I claimed that moment for my memories because I believed I'd never see the likes of it again.

But then, just over a week ago, I felt it again. This time it wasn't race related; this time it was for my nascent career. I jumped off a cliff about a year ago, and looking back I see the chute I thought I'd packed was so much smoke and mirrors. I was panicking that I'd cut my lifeline - the steady paycheck, the easy job. Who cares if I hated my work and my company and myself... oh wait, that was why I jumped in the first place. So I spent the last year madly flapping my arms, trying to get my real career - the one that waited patiently inside me while I figured things out - to take off.

I spent last year being scared and frustrated about my job, just like I had been scared and frustrated about my race training. And just the same, I kept showing up. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised when the epiphany came this time. Now I know everything is going to be ok. Not right away, no lottery ticket, but I'm not scared any more. I'm doing the work and I'm doing it well, and I learned about self-promotion and now I do that well, and the right people are starting to hear about me. I'm reaching critical mass and will soon come into my own.

After my first magic moment I thought I'd be fine with races from then on, but of course that's never the case and I'm back where I started, at least psychologically. I'm behind schedule on training and not sure how I'm going to pull it off. But now that I know the key to finding the magic is to keep showing up until it decides to reveal itself.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Never gonna be

I’m never gonna be the strongest. Or the fastest. Or the winner of the race.

Because I’m not that person. But I don’t mind.

I don’t have a fire raging in my belly, no inferno that lives and breathes and cries for conquest. No voice urging to push harder than the guy beside me, no compulsion to pass anyone in sight. No drive to search the horizon for the next guy, and the next. I don’t have that competitive edge.

But I don’t mind.

I don’t understand athletes who need to bleed to make it count. I respect it. Am in awe of it. But don’t wish it for myself.

What I have is my own. I will be the strongest I can be. I will be the fastest I can be. If it means last place, I rejoice in my finish. If it means the back of the pack, I rejoice I wasn’t passed by succeeding waves. If someday it means the middle of the pack, I will rejoice in miracles. And if it ever means an age-group win… well, let’s not get crazy.

I cheer those who go before me, the ones who finish their race before mine starts, who wait patiently for me to straggle into T2 so they can get their gear and go home. I look at them with admiration – but never with envy.

I may never believe I deserve to run beside the strongest and the fastest, to share a course with the elites. But I love the sport that lets me try. So I will run my own race and revel in it.

Because I have a different kind of fire. Long, slow-burning embers. Hot enough to burn away the hurt of expectations – or lack thereof – placed on me by others. A belief that if I go on as if there is no such thing as failure, then I will not fail. My fire isn’t the stuff of champions, but it brought me to endurance sport just the same. Me. The non-athlete, the short one, the slow one. But also the strong one. And the strong-willed one.

I don’t need to tend my fire, it tends to me. No dazzling promises of glorious wins; I don’t need them. Am deaf to them. My mind’s secret murmurs are much more seductive. Just a little farther… keep it up… you can climb that hill… just a few more seconds. Like a light in the dark, my voices take me where I need to go. They push me beyond my fears, beyond my physical challenges. Push me until even I believe I deserve to be called a triathlete.

So I’m never gonna be the winner of the race. But I don’t mind. Because I run my own race, in my own way. And I win it every time.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Great Song

In order to share with you what has the potential to be a great training song, I'll first have to out myself as an American Idol fan. In general I hate reality TV, but my husband and I are seriously into music. So, when they they upped the age limit for contestants last year, which resulted in some seriously talented folks getting a shot to sing on TV, we were reluctantly sucked in. I got so into it I was a regular voter and everything (blushing with shame).

Anyway, this is a long-winded way of explaining that I'm a big Bo Bice fan and I got his album for my birthday. There's one track in particular that really speaks to me and my journey into triathlon and has a pretty good running beat to boot.

The song is "It's My Life" and the chorus goes like this:

It's my life
My time to find the find answers
Don't always know what kind of road's in front of me
But I'll go slow
Want to remember every moment
That passes by because this ride is everything
It's my life

You should check it out.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

My Why

I’ve thought a lot about this question – the ‘why’ of it all. Thought about it a lot more now that I'm entering my second season and realizing I want to stick with it for a lifetime. It’s natural to ponder this one, because it’s so often the question people ask when they first learn you're a triathlete. Especially when that someone looks like me. Eventually you need to come up with an answer.

I bet there’s a whole psychology book out there on the reason that people’s first reaction is “why” – but that’s a tangent of its own.

Truth be told, when I feel a ‘you’re fat, therefore I’m not taking you seriously’ vibe from someone new, I make a point of working triathlon into the conversation. It’s not like I can go around with a “thyroid patient – remodeling in progress” sign around my neck, so I’ve found this is the next best way to get people out of their judgmental little boxes. After the inevitable incredulity and “why”, I find it’s common for them to check me out while they think I’m not looking. They do this to re-confirm their original impression that standing before them is a very short, very fat woman. Cute? Sure. But definitely fat. And it throws them off balance; they no longer know what to expect from me. I am officially outside their experiential parameters. Which is exactly how I like it.

But back to the why. I think a lot of the reasons we do this thing probably have similar roots. But these reasons are deeply complex and personal, and not the kind of thing to explain to a gaping stranger. So, we lower our eyes and grin a little, and say something like “I guess you’ve got to be a little nuts.” Because if they don’t get it, they don’t deserve to hear our whys.

I was recently reminded (Thanks,Wil) of the classic Steve Prefontaine quote: “Somebody may beat me, but they are going to have to bleed to do it.” This seemed to hit home for a lot of folks – I guess it spoke to their own whys.

I think it’s a great quote that illustrates the amazing competitive spirit that flourishes in so many athletes. But it doesn’t do anything for me. I’m not out there to beat anybody. I’m not out there to win anything. I suppose one could argue I’m out there to beat my childhood demons, to win respect for who I am and what I can do. But that would be an oversimplified, pop-psychology explanation with a Hollywood ending.

My why is internal. Sure, I never feel like I’m good enough, and I always feel like I need to do more. But that particular neurosis is an explanation for why I wasn’t satisfied with a sprint, which led to wanting an oly, which led to considering half-iron, which made me figure I might as well shoot for Iron. All before I can run a mile. It speaks to “why I want more” - it doesn’t get to the root of why I chose triathlon in the first place.

I was never an athletic person – even before my health problems derailed a decade of my life. So why someone like me was drawn to the mother of all endurance sports is a question for the ages.

What I do know is this: I spent my life often bored, searching for stimulation. How lucky I am to have been led to a place I’d never have looked on my own. Endurance sport? Ce n’est pas mon milieu. I’ll make a fool of myself.

It’s a fantastic paradox, that I would so love the thing that humbles me most.

I love that I conquered a panic-attack inducing phobia to swim in open water. I really love the friends who swam patiently beside me while I hyperventilated and begged for the shore. I love when I’m flying down a country road on my bike and find myself betting I can top the next hill in the big ring. And I love the feeling – that brutal, burning, freefall feeling – after a run, when I know I pushed my body to its limit and came out stronger for it.

I love that it’s demanding. I love that there’s always a reason to push a little harder, a little faster, a little farther. I love that there’s always a new goal on the horizon. I love that it will never come easily. And oh, how I love the people. It’s a solitary sport where you never feel alone, even at the back of the pack with no one in sight.

Sunday, January 15, 2006


My lucky day was just that - one stinkin' day. For all of 24 hours I got to revel in the idea that our financial hardships were coming to an end because my business was taking off. We barely squeaked by last year, and it's been a matter of working and patience until I started making more. I thought that day had arrived.

Then we got our tax statement. They've been messed up because this was new construction and we've barely been in it two years. We even paid a bunch of extra last year knowing there would be a gap, but, big shocker, taxes were more than anticipated (we were 2 grand short).

Bottom line: our mortgage payment is going up by $700 a month, and boy oh boy do we not have it. The reality of my nascent writing career is that I can't always meet my own expenses (car payment, student loans) at this point, so we're potentially looking at a monthly shortage of $2000+.

The entire year now has to be re-evaluated. I can forget adopting a new dog. I can certainly forget adopting a baby. Vacations are out the window. Opening another retirement account is on hold. I'm going to have to make do with the bike shoes that pinch my toes and make my feet go numb after 5 miles. Will definitely have to go one more winter without a bike trainer. And there's no way I'm going to get to do five or six races like I wanted. He's not making me drop them all, but at this point I'm only going to register for one, and if around August we can swing it then I'll do one more.

I'm trying hard to put a happy face on this because otherwise it's too overwhelming. So, here's my list of reasons why this won't be so bad.

1) It will be easier to lose weight, because our normal routine of ordering out three times a week because I was too tired/lazy to cook is out the window.

2) It will be easier to lose weight because I won't be doing as many races. I learned last year that my nutritional needs for weight loss and my nutritional needs during active race training are in conflict; training + dieting = bonking (at least for me). I don't lose at all when I'm truly training - even when that means 10-15 hours a week of hard-core exercise.

3) It will be easier to lose weight because I won't be able to treat myself to umpteen-gajillion calorie gourmet coffee drinks drowning in chocolate and whipped cream.

4) It will be easier to focus on my goal of truly learning to run. The one race I'm booking is early in the season. This means I'll have an entire summer, when I'd usually be cranking up the biking and swimming (to use the good weather) to the detriment of running, to really get outside and conquer this demon. I'm making measureable progress on the dreadmill, but I know it's a crutch and I want to eliminate it.

5) I will be forced to finish the projects I've got instead of starting new ones. This is a terrible habit I inherited from my mother. I see myself doing it and know it's bad and have been trying to stop. I get an idea, buy everything I need to do it, start it, and then it sits, sometimes for years. (For example, refinishing my antique dressers went for 9 years before I finally gave up and had it done professionally). I hate that she does it, and I hate that I do it. Now that I can't afford to go out and buy craft stuff, I'll be forced to finish the afghans and such that I already have stuff for. That also goes for projects around the house; we keep doing everything BUT mudding the drywall because we hate it. By the end of the year we'll have all these half-done things done, and I'll have freed up a ridiculous amount of closet space.

6)My career really truly will take off because I'll be forced to work evenings and weekends trying to make ends meet. I have been lazy, I admit it. If I didn't have a client project then I didn't really work much. But I've got a ton of article ideas that I could be trying to sell, and a novel to write, and on and on. I'm a working writer now, but by the end of this year I will be able to say I'm a successful writer.

7) After working those kind of hours, I'll be crawling into bed beside a sexy stranger, 'cause I sure as hell won't recognize my husband.

8) I get a whole year devoid of new video games and being begged for permission to buy the latest console.

9) I'll finally finish reading my piles of books because I won't be able to keep buying new ones on a whim. The bookstore is like a crackhouse for me. I buy impulsively and literally have a couple of stacks (probably 20-30 books) around so I always have a variety to choose from. I'm always reading 2-3 books at a time, and often read that many each week, so this isn't quite as nuts as it might sound. Now I'll be forced to read the ones that seemed like a good idea at the time (e.g. The History of Queen Elizabeth) but I never seem to be in the mood for when I've got the latest Marian Keyes or a classic Vonnegut available instead.

10) I let my Advertising Age subscription lapse because it costs a fortune. But, I have 9 months worth of unread issues piled up in my office. I'll finally get caught up on them.

11) We'll learn how to go back to living on a firm budget, something we've been lazy about, and something we needed to do to prepare ourselves for our goal of becoming parents.

We'll be ok if we can make it to August 2007 (not a typo - 2007), when several major debts (like the car) will be paid off and our monthly obligations will drop dramatically.

Until then, maybe I should start practicing: "Do you want fries with that..."

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Lucky Day

Friday the 13th has always been my lucky day, and yesterday was no different!

I had a meeting with a potential client; the premise being a marketing firm needed content for their website. The 'marketing firm' turned out to be a home-based professional like me, too busy doing client work to get her own promotional materials together, like me (I've been trying to finish my own 1-page brochure for over 6 months!) Anyway, we clicked instantly, talked for two hours, and I walked away with a contract to do an urgent document rewrite she didn't have time to finish for her client this week... and when that's done we'll go back to talking about her website. So, my free and easy weekend is now in panic mode, but when you're getting your freelance career off the ground (i.e. one step away from a return to Ramen) you take it where you can get it! Especially when it's coming from a client with 'repeat business' written all over it.

Then I got home to find a message from a local business journal wanting to know if I can ghost write articles for their clients! That's only one of my core goals!

Then I had a client check in the mail I'd been waiting for!

Definitely a good day, especially since it started with a good workout. Which, btw, I'm paying for today. Apparently my triumphant return to the gym was a little too triumphant for my not-worked-in-a-month muscles. Now I'm going to find out if the cure for lactic acid is an hour of running intervals...

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

A new day is dawning...

Hear that? It's the sound of my paradigm shifting without a clutch.

When I started the day I thought this was going to be a very different post. I expected to be airing my woes about how hard it was to go back to the gym after such a long absense, how much of my cardio base I'd lost from my illness, blah blah bitch bitch moan moan - the type of icky crappy stuff that is normal for me and my icky crappy health. I expected it to suck.

Since I've still sniffles and a hint of bronchitis I was in no hurry to get back in the gym. But, the rest of me has apparently decided we're done being sick so I had to go. And I mean had to. I had so much nervous energy two nights ago I went nuts cleaning and organizing - I even ironed the napkins for fuck's sake! Then I laid awake all night. Last night, even after not sleeping the previous, I was so full of energy it was all I could do to sit still to work, what with the unpainted kitchen walls taunting me. Laid awake most of this night too.

So I decided, cough or no, to hit the gym this the morning. I thought I'd be able to get in 20, maybe even 30 minutes walking on the treadmill. You know - ease back into it, pamper my fragile health.

Boy did I get a surprise. Actually, surprise isn't a strong enough word. It was Shock and Awe, baby! 'Cause folks, I was running. There was no denying, even in the face of a lingering cough and half a remaining course of antibiotics, that I was perfectly capable of doing so. And what's more, it felt fucking GREAT!

In a concession to my cough I did shorter intervals than usual at a slower pace, but I found speeding up was irresistable, plus I threw in an extra interval. Even though in the last interval I did finally feel the pull of the bronchitis on my breathing, I didn't want to stop. Wouldn't have, if I hadn't had a meeting to get to.

I'm not complaining - just having trouble wrapping my brain around it. For two years it's felt like I was betting on a rigged game; one that paid out just enough success to keep me coming back, but would never give up the jackpot. Well, today I won big. Game on, baby - let it ride and see where it takes me. I can't wait to see what happens next.

Just Breathe

I used to take breathing for granted. As a child I remember my mom wheezing and sneezing on hazy summer days, heard her say "hay fever" but went on my way, not understanding enough to know I should feel bad for her. Not understanding nearly enough to know I should be grateful it wasn't me.

I breathed in the hot dust of our country lives, reveled in the coolness of the damp and moldy leaf carpeted woods. Only the wind, whipping by as I tried to outrun it on my motorcycle, or the greatest of kisses - only those could steal my breath away. Holding the longest long note, marching across halftime, playing and moving and playing until bright stars came into my vision and I had to concede to breathe for a split second before doing it again. These were challenges worthy of my bottomless breath.

And then I moved away. Away from the clear country air and the bright smells of cows and corn. Into a collegiate cloud of bar smoke and dumpsters and dryer lint and where did the clean air go? Then I started to wheeze. And to cough and to sneeze. My mom said "hay fever." But when the fevers came the doctor said bronchitis. I endured endlessly sick lungs for months, was never the same again.

Then the things I loved were just a little bit harder. Not noticeable, nothing to force a conscious evaluation. It creeped insidiously into my life, forced me to adjust without admitting to the adjustment. But I didn't hold the notes quite as long, or wait for quite as many measures for the next breath.

And then I moved again. To a place of never-ending cars and concrete and buildings. A place where there is no escape from the city-smell, and the oppressive air weighed heavy on my lungs. A place where I lost all will to be outside, for as far as I was concerned they had killed the outside I wanted to be in. Concrete paths perfumed with exhaust are a poor substitute for the open country roads of my youth.

So it got worse. And my health declined, and the weight piled on, and then the allergies came. Slowly at first, gradually, until I was living every day in a sneezy, itchy, Kleenex hell.

Now I wake every day to ask: can I breath today? How bad is it? Just a little stuffy - I can bike, I can run. Breathing through my nose? Better get into the water while it lasts. Swimming! How I've always loved to be in the water. I never would have guessed, turning underwater somersaults as a child, that my biggest aquatic challenge would become the simple act of exhaling through my nose.

So I take my shots and keep a supply of pills and the occasional inhaler and live every day checking pollen and mold counts, avoiding the grocery store detergent aisles, checking the forcast for windy days. I live a life of constant vigilance because I can't breathe any more. At least not the way the rest of the world understands what it is to breathe.

When we cease to breathe we cease to live; this is both biological fact and existential nightmare. My dwindling breath was stealing my life away, one joy at a time. But no longer. It's not a battle I can win; but it is an endurable seige. As long as I can maintain my defenses I can keep doing the things I have come to love. Like swimming. And biking. And running.

So, pass the Kleenex. I've races to train for.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Nightmare? Or New Sport?

Last night I had a seriously bizarro dream - one of those dreams that feel totally real, like there's no doubt it's happening at the time even though you're saying to yourself "huh, I don't remember an ocean at the south end of the U of I campus."

So OK. Here it goes. I was racing in a short-ish sprint distance pseudo-Xterra kind of tri being run around U of I. Nothing too strange there, right? (except for the obvious "wha?!" factor of U of I campus having "off road" elements - I mean it's not that odd for a triathlete who went to UIUC to dream about a tri around the school).

Here's the bizarro factor of this race. At each transition... drumroll please... you had to take a calculus test before you could run the next leg.

Oh, and I guess it was a little weird that transitions were in dorm rooms.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

A Learning Experience

Still ridiculous sick, but finally starting to come through the other side of it. My husband and I agreed that this is by far the sickest I've ever been, ever ever ever.

I was actually too sick to read or watch TV for several days - too much head-pounding, dizzyness, etc. Couldn't concentrate on anything but sitting still and being miserable. It was fantastic.

By yesterday I improved enough that I could move from bed to couch and managed to watch some TV. Can I just say for the record I love having 800 gazillion digital cable channels?! I never used to care, but my husband is an engineer, so we tend to be "early adopters" - and then I get spoiled by the technology.

I can now truthfully say this illness has been a learning experience. I learned an alternate theory about Cleopatra's death; I learned about yet another guy's search for Atlantis; I learned all about artificial insemination for stud horses; I caught up on some classic musical theater; I learned about hauntings in English castles; and somewhere in there I learned that Theresa lied to Ryan about losing the baby so he'd go back to live with the Cohens.

Today I plan to learn who the Bears will be playing next week, about the reign of Henry the 8th, and if Ryan and Marissa get back together.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Still Derailed

Couldn't just get a little cold like everyone else - oooh no. Had to be a big nasty icky head sinusy thing that got bored just messing with my head, so it went on a field trip to my chest. Now I've got bronchitis too. Woo hoo! Doctor took a look at me and kind of laughed and shook his head and started writing prescriptions. I'm a serious mess, and this is after two solid days of lying in bed with kleenex, NyQuil and pedialyte.

The only consolation is the semi-coma I achieve with the codeine cough syrup. That's some good solid sleep baby!

Here's hoping I can breathe again by next week. I'm starting to forget what my gym looks like.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Book Report

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
by Dave Eggers

The tongue-in-cheek title of this unusual work - I hesitate to say novel - is, in the end, appropriate. This book is part autobiography, part memoir, part paranoid stream-of-conscious delusion. While it defies categorization, it is easy to say what it is and is not. Not a bedtime story, not a beach read. It is challenging and brilliant and sad and funny and mesmerizing.

This writer does not show any deference to his readers. The best word I've heard used to describe his writing is "aggressive." He says what he wants and dares you to keep up, spinning off into tangents sometimes for pages, coming back to the original point with or without you. But it's so fascinating, and so unexpectedly funny, that you want to keep up, want to accept the challenge of reading through to the end.

This book should appeal to anyone with an interest in serious writing. Whether you love or hate the book, above all you will respect the work.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


They say depression also depresses the immune system. Mine's already inadequate - part of being hypothyroid. Anyway, guess it's true. Went to bed with that ominous sore-throat tickle and the beginnings of a stuffy head. Took an allergy shot just in case - on wet rainy days (like the twilight zone weather yesterday) mold counts shoot up, and I can have allergy attacks so severe I think I've got a cold or the flu, but then a little bit of Allegra and some shots and I'm good as new in a day.

No such luck this time. Woke up with a killer sinus infection.

Ooooooh yeah. Just lovin' January.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Oh the Weather Outside is Frightful

Thunderstorms. In January.

I remember a lovely New Year's weekend not too many years ago when a blizzard trapped us at home for three days. It was great - board games and hot cocoa and playing with our dog. Today's the last day of our vacation, so I was looking forward to a homey kind of day, with beef stew in the crock pot, and bread baking, and maybe even making some cookies. The kind of stuff that feels right when the sounds of the outside world are muffled under a blanket of snow, and nothing could be more satisfying than being in a warm kitchen making comfort food for your family.

But this sucks. Don't get me wrong - I love a good thunderstorm. I can't get outside fast enough in a warm summer storm. Sometimes I throw my arms to the heavens, spinning until I'm dizzy, staring at the sky and feeling the wind whipping my hair. Sometimes I just sit in a lawn chair in silent contemplation of the wonders of nature.

But thunderstorms have their place, and I'm here to say it ain't on January freaking second!! I mean come on! Around here it's de rigeur to get a blizzard in March, and more or less expected to get one last bit of snow in the spring after the flowers have started blooming. Thunderstorms in January are end of times type stuff.

I hope the folks who don't believe in global warming are paying attention.